Story: The Truth About Dragons
In all the multiverse, throughout arcane academia, dragons are some of the most curious and contrarian of creatures. They are renowned for being fearsome, great wyrms, capable of great and terrible deeds of destruction. A dragon’s fiery breath can turn flesh to cinders and melt stone; its scales capable of shattering spears, arrows, and swords. Being made of magic themselves, even great wizards may find it difficult to harm a great winged reptile.
They are covetous, spiteful, sinful creatures who hoard wealth and trinkets, pillaging kingdoms and stealing from royalty and the common folk alike, depriving all of valuable resources that might otherwise. And they never die of old age, only violence.
Truly, in all the realms, there was never a greater threat to freedom, liberty, and prosperity, than the monsters whose silhouette blacks out the sky.
There is truth in all of this, as countless historical records from across time and distance illustrate time and time again, but it is not wholly accurate. There are no deliberate lies or purposeful misinterpretations in these common and time tested assessments, but rather they are incomplete data due to humanity’s collective need to be the center of any moral universe.
The truth about dragons is far more interesting and complicated. I have found in my research, experiments and interviews, that a human’s view of dragons is not unlike a fish’s view of a hand. They see something fleshy and grasping plunging down into the river, but their biological experience and mindset is not preprogrammed with the knowledge or understanding that something might be connected to that hand and exist wholly outside the river.
Dragons are covetous hoarders, yes, but it is not greed that drives them in the way that human beings lust after material possessions and wealth. Rather, it is constant emotional and mental stimulation that they seek. They are collectors and completionists at heart. Once something takes a dragon’s fancy, they can become obsessed with it for years, decades, or even centuries at a time; with an almost compulsive desire to possess, collect, and know everything about a particular fascination that there is to possess, collect, or know.
Neither do they exclusively hoard material wealth. Dragons will go through “phases” (if a decades-long obsession can be called a “phase”) where they become fascinated with all sorts of things. There are dragons who become librarians to uncountable tomes of knowledge, riddles, and jokes. Other wyrms get an itch for rare magical artifacts. Still more take to botany or animal husbandry, and create great gardens and menageries worthy of a sultan. There is at least one documented case of a dragon with a fondness for the collecting and manufacturing of rock candy. When a dragon sets its mind to collecting or learning about something, they cannot help but see it through to its most extreme logical conclusion.
This certainly a curse for those who live among the winged lizards, but it can also be a blessing. Once a dragon has seen its obsession through to its logical conclusion, or rather to the point of boredom, it can become careless and carefree on that subject. It is rather easy to take a dragon’s treasure provided the dragon has no further interest in it and intruders are not inclined to violence against the dragon. There are accounts of a wyrm showing a kind of backhanded gratitude at lucky thieves wanting to take away things that no longer held interest to it. Savvy surrounding kingdoms can turn famines into feasts if the end of a dragon’s obsession period is fortuitous enough.
That obsessive quality is also what rids kingdoms of dragons outside of violence. To the best of humanity’s collective knowledge, dragons do not die of old age. There are no piles of dragon bones that are not the result of violence of some sort. Instead, dragons just grow progressively stronger and more resilient over time. Yet dragons do not stay on this material plane forever. Eventually, dragons see all that they consider worth seeing, hoard all that they consider worth hoarding, and learn all that they consider worth learning, and just move on. They spread their leathery wings and leave the ground one last time as they shed the surly bonds of earth and take flight into the starry cosmos for a brand new adventure; where they go we know not where.
Of particular scholarly debate is the “morality” of dragons. Of their intelligence, there is no dispute. A dragon’s intelligence is roughly on par with its human counterparts. A seventy-two year old dragon has all of the knowledge and wisdom as a seventy-two year old man. The same is true for a one-year old dragon, or a thirteen year old dragon. Yet it lacks the biological infirmities that plague us in our sunset years. Senility and dementia do not plague the wyrms the way it does the clever apes. The fact that dragons’ lifespans are much much longer than ours makes them more than intellectually formidable.
But when it comes to morality, despite their intelligence, dragons are relegated to the classification of either evil monsters or savage beasts and nothing could be further from the truth. Dragons are both fiercely intelligent, and highly moral. They just don’t tend to recognize humans as people.
On the subject of personhood, it has been gleaned, dragons are what most would consider selfish and self-centered. They do not tend to judge intelligence, language, art, or any of the trappings of civilization as personhood (And why would they? Save when rearing their hatchlings, dragons are notoriously solitary). Instead, they judge personhood based on how much they personally relate to any given individual or population.
This is why kingdoms that are uncommunicative have the most violent and aggressive dragons to deal with. The bear cares not for the bees when it wants to eat honey. The villager reviles the rats that nest in their house. It is most fortunate then, that dragons rarely classify other beings according to their outward physical characteristics, but upon a sometimes random and mercurial set of behavioral attributes. A wyrm’s imagination is a powerful thing, indeed, and it is as like to imprint upon both curious collector as well as a warrior king. Like recognizes like, though due to its own egocentric nature a dragon is most likely to spare a human for being a ‘tiny scaleless dragon’ than for being anything resembling an equal.
-An excerpt from “A Traveler’s Guide to Devils, Dragons, and Demi-Gods, Author Unknown”
His name was not “Abe”. Dragon names cannot be pronounced by pests or understood in ways that made sense to their pest brains. A dragon’s name is a description about everything that has happened to the dragon and their relationship to the world around them, and it is said all at once with voice, volume, eyes, body language, odor, and breath. But for the sake of brevity, let’s call him Abe.
Abe slept atop his one remaining pile of gold deep in the center of his lair. The mountain didn’t start as a hollowed out system of interconnected tunnels. Only through much careful digging and melting of once solid rock was he able to make something so livable and comfortable. Not content to remain in an already established cave as he did when he was a centenarian, he got the idea when a nasty little pest intruded in on him. After the nasty little zapper was killed, Abe found several tiny books on a multitude of subjects, the most interesting among them was architecture.
The dragon spent the next several years reading up on the subject as well as geology until he had a near perfect theoretical knowledge on the subject. It took him less than a year afterwards to craft his new home from scratch as it were. Naturally, once it was complete he needed to fill it with things. A home without form or function was just a series of empty rooms. There needed to be a gaming and trophy room, a dining room, a kitchen, a bedroom, a living room, a room for entertaining company and so forth. At one point during the lair’s construction, Abe put in a nursery; not because he intended to raise a clutch of eggs, but because that’s what was done when building a house. Several fascinating books said so and those books in turn led Abe to discover even more books dedicated to the specifics on making the best type of a particular room: The best living room, the best kitchen, the best nursery, and so on. It had been wholly satisfying learning so many intricate and interesting details, which had in turn taught him how to work with wood and stone masonry.
Abe couldn’t decide if a mountain lair should have a basement or an attic (neither to be confused with a wine cellar) so he installed both and used them to store the brick-a-brack that he had grown bored with but was yet reluctant to toss away. One never knew when something might come in handy, or when sentiment and nostalgia would flare up again.
Annoyingly, after enough time, pests spread into the surrounding hills, and they inevitably tried to infest Abe’s lair. That had necessitated Abe learn the delicate and time honored tradition of trap making; and for that bit of amusement, Abe was passably grateful. The lava pits doubled as heating and it gave him the inspiration to redirect aquifers to make his own bathing chamber. Eventually, the pests must have discovered that he wasn’t particularly interested in what he stored in the attic and basement and so swarmed up there from time to time.
It was for the best, he decided. One only needed so much gold to sleep on and so many jewels to scrape one’s fangs. Anything else was showing off and the pests seemed to like the useless shiny things.
Presently, Abe tossed and turned in his sleep, unable to get comfortable on his bed of gold and silk. He wasn’t sleepy, yet he didn’t want to open his eyes. Opening his eyes would mean that the day had started and then he’d have to find something to do to occupy his time. That was just depressing. The only thing worse than constantly napping and sleeping due to boredom, was the restlessness that followed upon waking.
In the back of his mind, Abe knew it might be time to move on and explore as his mother had before him, but he’d yet to come to that acceptance. Nothing excited him when he looked up at the grand cosmos, yet he felt nothing when he considered more earthly pursuits. It was like looking at the menu and realizing one wasn’t hungry; old boring favorites still held more allure than risky foreign cuisine.
Abe did not know it, but he was the oldest dragon that had yet to move on, and as the oldest he was very likely the strongest. Strength did not matter overmuch after a certain point, but it made pests more ambitious and fearful by different turns. Sometimes, the pests still provided amusement, however fleeting.
Concerning pests, a grating, moaning, jabbering sound caused Abe to stir from his non-slumber. From his sleeping pile, he opened his eyes and spied a shambling, moaning, mass of metal carapace. A pest. One of the ones that donned false scales and carried false claws that were too big to fit in their tiny paws so they had to be carried. They were more common, and less annoying than the fuzzy zappers who shrieked and conjured up a poor facsimile of a dragon’s proper blazing breath.
So that’s what the noise he’d heard coming from from above, closer to the attic, had been. Another infestation of pests rummaging and stumbling around the attic. Stupid, silly, short lived things. One had made it past his pest traps and was likely here for the gold he wasn’t done sleeping on.
Rising to his full height, Abe looked down at the tiny thing and scowled. “Pest,” he said, more to himself.
The pest froze, shuddered in its spot, said something in what passed for language-Abe couldn’t tell what it said-and fell down dead. Abe huffed in annoyance. “Damnable pest,” he said. “Made it all the way to his bedroom just so it could start rotting in the very center of his home. Now he’d have to get up and toss it outside. It was a big one too, a two hander for sure. The idea of having to touch the dead thing with his hands made his breathing go shallow. Gross. Very gross. Maybe he could just cremate it; melt the carapace into the floor and scatter the ashes…but then he might accidentally breathe in pest ashes. “Ew…”
Another pathetic moan interrupted the dragon’s pontifications. The pest was still alive? Curiouser and curiouser, Abe circled around the busted and cracking metal carapace. He’d never heard a pest make that sound before. Come to think of it, he wasn’t used to hearing the pests make those kinds of sounds at all. Normally, they were loud and guttural, shouting what passed for death threats and cries for courage in their limited languages that used only voice.
This sound? It was different. And familiar. Vaguely familiar from a time long ago that Abe barely remembered himself. Fortunately, dragon memories are second to none, and he did remember. With one single claw, he gently poked and prodded at the carapace.
Abe’s serpentine head snapped back in surprise. “What’s happening?” In reply, he only got more mumbling and mewling. Mewling? Yes, ‘mewling’ sounded about right as far as descriptors went. Weak and pathetic, but not something that elicited disgust. The pest inside lightly wriggled and its shell continued to split open.
Split open? Crack? Like an egg! Yes! This was not a carapace or a bit of false skin. Yes, it had those things in common but in the big scheme of things everything could be like something else. What this was most like, Abe was concluding, was an egg. He’d read about this sort of thing before; had seen it in birds, and sort of remembered it in the nest when the last of his siblings had hatched.
“You’re not stealing…you’re…hatching?” The thing inside the egg, for it was indeed an egg in Abe’s view, made more sounds which the great wyrm took as a kind of involuntary confirmation. “Yes. Hatching. And…you need help?” Considering the thing inside the egg hadn’t been born yet, Abe didn’t expect a coherent response and was not disappointed when he didn’t comprehend the reply.
What Abe could never appreciate is that human languages, especially the spoken ones, advanced much more quickly than draconic. What was in fashion a mere five hundred years ago and perfectly serviceable quickly became ‘olde’ to the point of extinction as it mutated generation after generation.
Not understanding a word coming from the inside the egg (and once again, why would he?) Abe did the only thing he considered conscionable. He helped the little thing hatch, gently prying the egg open, chipping away at it with his claws so that the wet and slimy thing on the inside could be free and come into the world. Carefully, the dragon took the top part of the shell of last so that finally air would come into the little thing’s lungs.
Abe felt himself analyzing it. It looked familiar. Vaguely familiar. He’d seen a few illustrations of such a creature, so pink, and lacking any kind of scales. Helpless. Cute. It had more hair than the illustrations had led him to believe was normal, but such illustrations were often wrong.
According to many of his books, for example all the measurements on every piece of furniture that he crafted were completely off and had to be scaled up to appropriate size so that a proper dragon could make use of them. Who made furniture that tiny? So it was easy to believe that something that just hatched wouldn’t look quite like the illustrations he’d seen.
It certainly SMELLED like what he imagined a hatchling would smell like.
A single word spilled out of the adorably vulnerable creatures lips. Not even a word, but a bit of babbling like an infant that hadn’t yet learned to talk. “Dada”.
That was when the real magic happened in Abe’s brain: The magic of empathy and imagination fueled by fascination and complete certainty that his way was the right way. This wasn’t a pest, Abe realized. He’d read about this! He vaguely remembered being one himself!
This! Was! A!
At the sound of its name, the baby opened its mouth and gave one giant bawling yelp of affirmation. Then, just like the books had said, the poor little tyke passed out and emptied its bladder right there in the dragon’s arms.
That settled matters in Abe’s mind. This was a baby. It might not be exactly like a dragon hatchling, but it had enough in common from everything he remembered about his own childhood and everything he’d read that it was dragon enough. He too had once been weak and helpless, but proper nourishment and loving care had enabled him to grow mighty and strong. The baby even knew its name! How cute!
Just as importantly, more importantly, in fact, Abe now had a reason to use that nursery he’d created. This? This would not be boring! Wings tucked, he gently carried the sleeping babe in his arms through twisting labyrinthine tunnels that he hadn’t been through in decades. Along the way, for many babies were scared of the dark until their night vision developed, he lit torches. They had been purely ceremonial until now and it gave Abe a sense of satisfaction to use them.
“Here we are,” Abe cooed, even though he knew the baby was unconscious. It’s not that he expected a proper conversation, the thing had just been born. The great dragon just knew how important it was to introduce them to language early. How else would they learn to talk?
For the time being, more pressing matters were brought to the dragon’s attention, such as hygiene.
With much doting excitement, Abe laid the baby on the changing table he’d crafted. Like all things Abe dedicated himself to, it was perfect and held the tiny thing well with raised sides that couldn’t be easily rolled over when the little tyke got squirmy.
He looked down and examined between the sleeping babe’s legs. Its diaper was sorely lacking; nothing more than a thin membrane of cloth that was drenched and reeked of ammonia. To call it “leaky” would be like calling a “sieve” leaky; implying at least partial effectiveness. He doubted this would contain even a solid bowel movement.
Whomever had diapered the baby in its egg had done a poor job. Something about that sentence felt off, but Abe had never felt a great need to investigate childbirth or medicine before that, and so he dismissed it out of hand.
The facts, he reasoned, were right under his nose and as indisputable as they were adorable.
Even though he had never worn diapers himself, he’d read enough and seen enough of the lesser races- pests, giant pests, tiny green pests- to get the general idea. “Hmmm,” he grumbled to himself. “No pins? No knots either?” How was he supposed to get this off and on?
Practicality and impatience took over. Abe reached down and tore the used diaper apart at the sides, ruining it beyond even the mere illusion of functionality. “It’s not as if I was going to use this one again,” Abe said to himself. Then he remembered the baby. “No I wasn’t!” he cooed. “No I wasn’t! Daddy wasn’t going to use this old diaper ever again. It’s much too thin and flimsy for my special…” he glanced down between the child’s legs, “…boy! My special boy!”
A quick gout of flame caused the useless diaper to burst into flames and sprinkle down to the cave floor as ash.
Taking a washcloth (that unknown to Abe had long ago been a noble family’s proud coat of arms) the dragon daddy dunked the cloth into a water basin and gently dabbed and wiped at his new baby’s tender nether regions. Technically, Abe reminded himself, all areas of a baby were tender, especially one born without scales. That only added the amount of care he took in wiping the child clean. “My little man isn’t going to get a rash. Not on Daddy’s watch!”
To think him a Daddy: the very thought was absurd in the most delightful way.
The baby started to stir and babble something to himself. Abe made a note to himself to warm the wash water next time. No doubt it was the coldness that woke the baby up. “It’s okay,” he shushed the boy. “Daddy’s here. Daddy’s just making you nice and comfy.”
He crossed the child’s ankles and housed them up with one claw. With the other, he slid a fresh (and properly thick) diaper beneath the child’s rather skinny rump. “Babies aren’t supposed to be this thin,” Abe said. “Daddy’s gonna have to fatten you up. Yes he is! Yes he is!” While he cooed and played with the baby, he grabbed a vial of sweet smelling powder and dusted it in on the child’s backside and groin in order to prevent chafing and protect against rash.
Carefully, he reached into a basket by the foot of the changing table and removed several safety pins that he had scavenged when he had built this model nursery. They were tiny, only five inches or so, but then again so was the baby. He put the pins in his mouth, while he finished what would no doubt be the first of many changes.
The baby’s eyes softly fluttered open from dreamland just as Abe was pulling the fresh diaper up between the baby’s legs, forcing them apart. Newborn hatchlings couldn’t walk, so it hardly mattered if it threw off a hypothetical gait. The child let out a groaning burble as his eyes started coming into focus. It sounded fearful. Abe quickly and carefully fastened the ends of the diaper snugly together, pinning them in place so that the soft absorbent material was snug.
Being in a fresh diaper did nothing to ease the child’s screams. “This won’t do,” Abe cooed in draconic. He wanted the baby to associate diaper changes and being taken care of with happy times. “This won’t do at all.”
He attempted to make funny faces at the child but the screaming and tears only got worse. The child somehow managed to roll over and start crawling away from him towards the edge of the changing table. “Oh oh oh, careful, baby.” Abe gently cooed. “You’re very, very, tiny still. That’s a long way down at your age.” The dragon tried to remember how the world must have looked when he was all of five foot ten.
Tenderly, the great wyrm scooped the child up and rocked him gently, hoping to give the tender fleshed baby comfort. “Shhhh…shhhh….” he said. “Shhh….shhh….” This only made things worse and the little tyke in his arms bawled louder.
Abe tried pacing the nursery, and bouncing the child slightly, but that had not had the desired effect. Abe tried singing a hatchling’s song that he still remembered, but the child was obviously not a fan. When the little rugrat wasn’t trying to fall out of the dragon’s arms, he was screaming and covering his face as though certain doom was about to befall him.
“I just changed you,” Abe said more to himself than the child. He started ticking off what he could remember about basic childcare on his claws. “I rocked you. I sang you a lullaby. What could the matter be, little one?” His reptilian eyes looked at the boy’s thin stomach, and saw the peculiar hole in the middle of it, just above the diaper. He didn’t know what that was about, at least the baby didn’t seem to be in pain, but it did cause the dragon to smack his head in recognition.
“Of course!” he chided himself. “I haven’t fed you! You’ve just been hatched and I haven’t fed you!” Abe took to three legs and started thundering out of the nursery, carrying the child. He hadn’t done any kind of research on what babies ate. He recalled, however, that some drank from something called breasts, while others drank from bottles.
Breasts, Abe did not have. But he had many bottles in great supply.
“Dadaaaaaaa!” The baby screamed. “Dada dada dada dada!”
“Just a second,” Abe hushed, while maneuvering the precise network of tunnels to just the right spot in his lair. Lesser, non-dragon-like creatures would get lost or fall into any number of traps. But not Abe. And in time, his new baby would come to memorize it too. That was a matter for later, however, and there was no sense in worrying about the future when the present was at stake. “I know you’re hungry,” he said. “Dada is getting you a bottle right now. Would you like that? Would you? I bet you would! I bet you would!”
Just calling himself “Dada” had an effect on Abe. He felt more than amused. He was excited. Tickled! Thrilled! He was quite sure that he’d never felt this way before. Over five hundred years and he was beginning to feel a new emotion. How exhilarating.
His attempts at baby talk to soothe the baby were met with more wailing. “DADAAAAAAAA!”
Some things, Abe chuckled to himself, couldn’t be remedied with simple verbal affection. Fortunately, Abe was fleet of foot, almost as fast on land as he was in the sky, and had tread this path many times in the past. Some might say too many times.
Abe lit the torches in this new room with quick tiny gouts of flame from his nostrils, one at a time, so the poor little half blind baby wouldn’t be afraid. After the third or fourth puff, he gave up. The baby didn’t need to see, he just needed to be fed!
The gargantuan dragon tiptoed around the racks of bottles he had amassed and collected over the years. From them he took a small green bottle with a cork in it. “Ah!” Abe remarked. “This should work!” Dexterously, he uncorked the bottle and slid it up to the infant’s lips. “Here you go, little one. Drink up. It’s juice! Nummy nummy juice!”
The new father chuckled good naturedly, but still worried. What would he do if he couldn’t get this poor little thing to eat? “Yes, my sweet baby boy,” he cooed. “I’m Dada. Now drink. Drink it up.” He used just a tiny amount of force and pressed the mouth of the bottle to the baby’s lips.
The poor pathetic hatchling tried to scream “Dada” again, but once the bottle’s contents sloshed into the baby’s mouth, a very different, very surprised look came over him. For the first time, beautiful brown eyes gazed up in recognition of the dragon.
“Tastes good?” Abe asked.
As if in reply, the baby put his mouth on the bottle and took another sip. He licked his lips and smacked them, the way Abe often did when something unexpected yet delicious found its way onto his palette. Like father, like son. The baby took the bottle with both tiny hands and started gulping down the contents.
Abe sighed in relief. Everything was going to be okay. The baby would drink. “That’s right,” the father lizard coaxed. “Drink it up. That’s a good boy. Good baby.”
The more of the juice he gulped from the green glass bottle, the more content the infant seemed to be. The baby’s muscles started to untense. His eyes, once so fearful and wary, now seemed to glaze over with content.
Dragons, being natural hoarders, and long lived besides, Abe went through a phase when he collected and stored every fine spirit he could find. He read many sources that indicated that the drinking of such things could cause great pleasure.
Abe experimented with it for some time, but ultimately decided against it. The juice was tasty enough, to be certain, but the sample sizes were much too small to be of much pleasure. The quantities were all far too small, and the potency of the stuff much too weak to affect him. The only reason Abe had finished stuffing racks and racks and racks with the stuff was because once he started something, it wasn’t in his nature to stop.
The grape juice sated the infant cradled in his arms, however. Abe was suddenly very glad he had finished this side project so long ago. If he hadn’t, he might not have had anything to give his new baby to drink. That certainly wouldn’t have made him a good father.
Lazily the baby lulled his head and removed the bottle from his lips, eliciting a loud belch accompanied by happy, contented babbling. Abe took the bottle from him and swished it around. “Still half left.”
He considered giving the baby the rest of it, but the child seemed content as he was. Babies could be trusted to know when they were hungry or not. They just couldn’t be trusted to hold their bladders. “We’ll finish this later,” he promised, recorking the bottle and sliding it back into the rack where he found it. “You did a good job!” He told his baby. “Such a good little drinker!”
“Hyuk!” The baby let out a jolting half-gasping sound. “Hyuk!”
Abe began walking upright again, repositioning the newborn over his shoulder. “Windy pops, eh?” he said good naturedly. “Can’t have that. Those can get mighty uncomfortable, I hear.”
Walking slowly back through the turning and twisting tunnels, Abe patted the child gently but firmly on the back. First he’d pat the back with the flat of his palm, gently thudding the boy. Then he’d rub the back in tight and tiny circles, massaging him.
“Urp!” Came the reply.
“Good baby,” Abe said, and kept going.
Good baby!” He gave the child’s bottom a gentle, soothing pat, too. “Keep going. Keep trying.”
The dragon waited for his adopted child to burp again, but no belches came. No hiccups did either. The great old wyrm huffed to himself with contentment and satisfaction. This wasn’t so hard, yet it felt highly rewarding.
On his way back to the nursery, Abe stopped by his kitchen, removing from his meat locker it a shank of salted mammoth. Parenting was hard work and he could use a light snack. “Off to bed with you, child,” he told his new charge when they re-entered the nursery, “and then your Dada will have some num-nums of his own.” He roasted a shank of meat with his breath and took a bite.
The baby began sniffling, again. Abe braced himself for another bout of wailing cries. Clearly, he’d spoken too soon.
No cries came. “Dada?”
Abe looked to the child. He was staring at the meat, his little pink tongue licking his lips, a healthy sheen of drool forming. His tiny hands stretched out, trying to reach across his daddy’s scaly chest to get at the meat. “Oh no no no,” Abe said, holding the meat away from his precious bundle of joy “This isn’t for…”
He stopped himself. He recognized the look of longing on the little boy’s face. A growl of hunger rumbled in the boy’s stomach. He’d just had some juice. Maybe juice wasn’t enough. Thinking back on it, Abe’s mother had told him that she’d fed him his first bit of meat when he was less than a day old. Why shouldn’t it be the same for his baby. Plus, it would give him a chance to try the highchair. “I better not be spoiling you,” Abe said. Both he and the baby knew that he’d given in.
Abe lowered the child into the highchair. The baby looked around, more amazed and amused than afraid and confused. A fresh diaper with some grape juice and the child was already becoming more and more dragon-like. His face had gone so far as to take on an attractive reddish hue.
Just like his Daddy.
If any doubt lingered that Abe was keeping this baby for his own, that stray thought sent it up in a puff of smoke.
He put a bit of charred meat on his claw. Playfully, he waggled it around, inching closer and closer to the child. “Heeeeere coooomes the man-ti-cooooore!”
Delightedly, the child laughed and clapped his hands. “Hee-hee-hee-heee-heee!” Some things were universal.
“Heeeere coooomes the man-ti-coooore!”
“Hee-heee-hee-hee-heee!” Abe plopped the bit of meat into the child’s lips just as the laughter was dying down. Just as with the juice, the baby’s eyes lit up in delight and surprise. His mouth closed on the mammoth steak and he started chewing. “MMMMMMM!”
Oh to be young again, and be able to experience everything for the first time. The tastes! The sounds! The smells! The simple pleasures of chewing on meat! Though in a way, Abe supposed, he could. He could rediscover his love for those things vicariously through his child.
“Ah!” The baby said. “Ah! Ah!”
“Hungry little thing, aren’t you?”
Abe gladly obliged. “Heeeere cooooomes the man-ti-cooooore!”
The baby snapped up the bit with gusto, chewing happily with his mouth open and giggling and giggling. Half a dozen tiny pieces later, and the baby’s head was finally starting to droop.
“I think that’s enough, little one,” the daddy dragon said.
“Dada,” the baby yawned, stretching his arms out and leaning back in his highchair. Abe quickly devoured the rest of his snack. The baby’s stomach was so small that there was more than enough left for him. It was such a small thing to share the meal. Small, yet infinitely gratifying; just like the baby himself.
Another yawn, and the daddy dragon lifted his tiny adopted hatchling out of the highchair while his arms were still up stretched towards the ceiling. His soft and tender form draped itself over his Daddy’s shoulder.
“Poor little guy,” Abe whispered.”Someone’s had a very busy first day.” There was no question about that. Abe carted the child over to his crib, humming that same dragon lullaby to himself. With a full belly and a clean diaper, his baby didn’t seem to mind it this time.
A quick inspection and Abe corrected himself. The condition of the diaper wasn’t a factor at all. “Wet,” Abe noticed. He glanced back over at the changing table and then down into the nice soft crib. “But not too wet.”
Changing could wait. He also didn’t want his baby crying everytime he had a wet diaper. Laundry would now be on the chore list for the foreseeable future, and he didn’t want to make more work for himself than was necessary. Also, he didn’t want his adopted child to panic or worry every time he woke up wet, as it was perfectly natural for a baby. Best to get him used to sleeping wet, too.
Slowly and softly, he lowered his new, most treasured thing into the world and pecked him on top of the forehead. “Goodnight my little prince,” he said, before blowing out the torchlight in the nursery.
In loving reply. He heard a happy sounding babble and then, “Dada.”
Sir Albrecht laid behind the massive wooden bars of what he supposed was a crib. His belly full of wine and roast meat, it was getting harder and harder to keep awake. The half a bottle he’d chugged had lowered his inhibitions and loosened his bladder to the point where he’d wet himself yet again but didn’t mind so much. The diaper held it nicely.
“I could get used to this,” he mumbled drunkenly to himself. “Real used to…” he started drifting off and belched himself awake.
In Albrecht’s homeland, there were only two ways that a knight could fall into disgrace: Being caught with a dead girl in your bed or a live boy. The latter had happened to him, and thus he’d been sent on this suicidal penance quest.
“Some penance,” Albrecht licked his lips. “A hot meal. A soft bed.” He wriggled his bum beneath the sheets, “and a thick diaper. That’s plenty good. Plennnnn-ty good.” He inhaled deeply, enjoying the odd mixture of smells; the wine still on his breath and the powder still coating his bum. “Plenty good indeed.”
They didn’t have dragons where Albrecht came from. So he didn’t know how dastardly clever they could be with their tricks and traps and winding tunnels that you could get lost in and starve to death. It’s a wonder he made it as far as he did before his cheap armor finally cracked around him. He also didn’t know how intelligent, or frankly insane, the great beasts could be. Never in a billion years would the knight have guessed this is how his quest would end.
And it had ended. For some reason, this big lizard thought he was a baby of some sort, and Albrecht was in no hurry to disabuse him of that notion. As soon as his brains stopped rattling around in his skull and he realized the dragon wasn’t going to roast him or impale him, Albrecht started playing the part. The strength of the alcohol in his blood helped too.
The biggest problem with childhood, by his reasoning, was that you were too young to really appreciate it. Love, food, and someone big and strong to play with you and protect you? Yeah. That was nice. Very nice. “Let’s just see how this plays out,” he yawned.
The babified knight finally let his eyes close, and he drifted off into a drunken slumber; knowing but not caring that he’d probably be more soaked and in need of changing when he woke up. That was the dragon’s problem, and the crazy thing absolutely swooned whenever he called it by name.
What neither Albrecht, nor Abe knew, was that in Albrecht’s native tongue the word for “Dragon” sounded suspiciously like the sound that a young hatchling would make when calling out to its father, or “Dada”.